6th January, 2017

Entries open today for the 25th and last Martin Wills Writing Awards; they close on 28 February 2017.
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2nd December, 2016

The education and community engagement charity Racing to School has signed up to The Giving Machine, a simple online charity… More

11th November, 2016

To celebrate Trustees Week, which runs from November 7 to November 13, the Racing Post spoke to several of racing's… More

4th November, 2016

Full Time, Permanent
Offices in High Holborn with frequent travel within the UK More

31st October, 2016

The education and community charity Racing to School has appointed John Blake as its new Chief Executive. More

21st September, 2016

An exciting new partnership has been announced between the charity Racing to School, Godolphin, the global thoroughbred horseracing and breeding… More

Pony Clubbers enjoy a first visit to Towcester through Racing To School’s Riders' Programme

17th February, 2017

Racing to School's half-term activity included a Riders' Programme actitivy day at Towecester racecourse for Pony Club members. 

A bright Spring-like morning greeted a group of around 20 Pony Club members who attended the  Riders’ Programme during half-term at Towcester Racecourse on February 15th. The marquee was set up for the arrival of local Pony Clubs from Areas 6 and 12 for their first visit to the racecourse. The Riders’ Programme is one of Racing to School’s new programmes that is offered free to young people. The aim of the day is to connect with those who already have an interest in horses and to give them a unique insight into the opportunities within horse racing.

The Pony Club is split into 19 Areas country-wide, each with a number of Branches and Centres. As the Pony Clubbers and parents tucked into the refreshments they are welcomed by the charity’s Ollie McPhail – former jockey now Programme Manager.

As the group donned their colourful jockey silks, their journey began. First up, an informative guide by the Clerk of the Course, Rob Bellamy. Rob is used to working with the charity and gave a fantastic tour of the stewards’ and judges’ areas. The view is amazing with beautiful views of the undulating Towcester racecourse. We were told that after every day’s racing every divot is carefully flattened by foot. Yes, by foot! The Clerk of the Course is always very proud of their achievements of maintaining the turf and this can certainly be seen at Towcester.

The first insight into a jockey’s life is in the weighing room. The lucky Pony Club members are fortunate enough to meet the young and successful jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, who is keen to sit and chat away before the first race. The group is allowed to go behind the scenes to see the horses arriving in their stables before they race, which is followed by a quick tour around the horse hospital by one of the four vets on the course. The support team on hand really highlights that horse care is second to none. Now to the exciting part… judging the best turned-out horse.

The horse judged to be best prepared with the prettiest mane and tail wins a prize in each race and the Pony Club members were lucky enough to choose the winning horse and present the prize to the owners, too. The day is fast-moving, full of fun and really informative. Next up was trainer Ben Pauling who saddled the winner of the second race of the day. Ben kindly gave a fantastic overview of life as a trainer, describing how his yard works and the important and varied roles that are on offer in racing.


Champion Jockey makes it a memorable day for Pony Club Members

So the sunshine didn’t last for long, as everyone rushed in from the rain after watching the racing.  However the group came across none other than Richard Johnson, the current Champion Jump Jockey. As the children piled round him eagerly awaiting his autograph, it’s so obvious why this sport is so special and accessible. Exercising the brain is one thing, but the chance to get astride an equiciser is as good as it gets for these young riders. The equiciser emulates a racehorse: the saddle, the riding position, movement and the stirrup length!

Everyone has a turn and soon realise it isn’t easy being a jockey; their core strength is incredible, along with how they balance on the tiniest saddle. The day ended on a high with very enthusiastic and happy Pony Club members. The team at Racing to School is always pleased to hear from parents of those who attend events.

“For April it has added another dimension to possible directions for her future career. "Within Pony Club, we shall certainly be spreading the word about what an amazing experience it was to be able to come today, and encouraging fellow members to take the opportunity in future,” commented one parent.

The foundations of the careers of Ollie McPhail, Robert Bellamy, Richard Johnson, Sam Twiston-Davies and Ben Pauling were all laid with the Pony Club, and the relationship between the organisation and racing is getting even stronger. Racing to School will be working with more Pony Clubs as the year goes on, highlighting the opportunities within the sport and the support available to young people wishing to develop a passionate hobby into a possible career.

BHEST - Pony Clubbers enjoy a first visit to Towcester through Racing To School’s Riders’ Programme

Fomer Pony Clubber RIchard Johnson meets with some young riders at Towcester